Old Rothbury (Rothbury)
Old Rothbury (Kimmer Noo). A cliff fort with multiple ramparts enclosing an area of approximately 1.5 acres. (2)
The camp at Old Rothbury occupies the western extremity of a freestone rampart and has strong natural defences. It is overlooked from the east by a higher plateau.
To the east and south the defences consisted of two ramparts and ditches. To the south little of these remain but the eastern defences are well preserved. On the west side the crags form a natural defence, but at the weaker northern end there are traces of a stone rampart. The north side of the site is very steep and appears to have been defended by a rampart and ditch, now scarcely traceable.
A gap 35 feet wide between the western end of the south defences and the cliff edge may have been one of the entrances. There is another entrance in the south-east corner on the north side of which the outer rampart curves to meet the inner.
On the south-west side of the enclosed area are a group of 10-12 hut circles. The most easterly is very large with a diameter of 56 feet, but the others vary from 16-20 feet across.
To the north of the hut circles is a bank of earth and stone, possibly part of a former earthwork or an internal division of this one. (3)
The camp called Old Rothbury occupies a knoll part of which goes by the name of Kimmer Noo. [Brief description of camp]. (4)
Type A1 (forts on the edges of precipices defended only in part only by artificial works). (5)
In the vicinity of the earthwork of Old Rothbury forming a sort of outer bailey to the central fortress are a series of straight banks.
Long walls or ramparts are found in conjunction with a number of earthworks in Northumberland. They exhibit the following salient characteristics:-
(i) Their lower points are massive, built of unhewn stones packed with smaller stones and earth;
(ii) They are usually laid off in a series of nearly straight lines;
(iii) They either cross valleys by the shortest route or follow contour lines;
(iv) As a rule they do not form enclosures but consist of one or two straight lines;
(v) Ditches when present are always on their highest sides and of no great depth;
(vi) They usually terminate against a crag, steep bank, or stream and are planned to include natural rock formations;
(vii) They appear to be contemporary or of later date than the earthwork, and are invariably breached by the hollow trackways so numerous on the Rothbury and Simonside Hills.
At Rothbury the best preserved portion is to the north where there is an unusually large ditch on the outside of the bank. To the east it dies away into a steep hillside overlooking boggy ground. The rampart south of the 'camp' has its ditch on the upper side. A good deal of the western sector has been removed and is now represented by a broad terrace running across Gimmer Knowe. There are some uncertain fragments in the south-east corner. From the north-west corner the western rampart line seems to be continued in a much less massive form across part of a table land about 100 feet about 'Old Rothbury'. (6)
Scheduled Ancient Monument (County No 167). (7)
The remains of an earthwork are situated upon the top of a short spur which juts out from steep south-west slopes of pasture which rise to overlooking rocky crags above which is an undulating plateau of open moorland.
The site is approx 600 feet above sea level, and it overlooks the hill slopes to the east, and to the north-west beyond the head of a small vale. Is the south-west and south-east it commands long stretches of the broad valley of the River Coquet, which flows by some 350 feet below. The nearest present fresh water supply is in the little vale to the north-west.
The spur terminates with precipitous rocky slopes and these have been utilised for natural defence on the south-west side of the earthwork, which is roughly wedge-shaped in plan. The narrower rounded end, facing north-east which is the most vulnerable section has been bounded by double ramparts with a medial ditch. They fade out at the north end, and there are traces of only the inner rampart having been continued along the north-west side along the top of the steep slopes which fall to the little vale. Thence it turned south-east until the crags were reached. At the eastern end, the double ramparts come against a ridge of rock which has been utilised as a causewayed entrance. Beyond this, the outer rampart continues across the slopes for some 30m before fading out. The inner rampart and the ditch continue down the slopes to form the south-east side of the earthwork, and terminate at the edge of the crags. At the western corner, the site is given additional defence, where the slopes become temporarily
less steep, with a short stretch of rampart with inner ditch.
Within the enclosure is one prominent sub-dividing bank running from the south-western crags towards the centre of the site, where it is cut short by a modern stone dyke, beyond which all traces of its extension north-westwards have been ploughed out. At its southern end at the top of the crags is a small entrance, with a possible hut circle against the north side. Along the east side of the bank are three hut circles of diameters of 5m-8m, and a small D-shaped enclosure with an entrance against the bank in the north side. A further hut circle of 5m diameter lies near the south-east corner of the earthwork. There are remains of a bank running from the D-shaped enclosure to the south-east corner thereby enclosing the hut circle area. The stone dyke which cuts right across the earthwork from north-east to south-west, crosses a hut circle of 10m diameter, no traces of which remain on the south side of the wall. This is situated near the top of the south-western crags.
On the north, west and south sides, 60m to 90m outside the earthwork are remains of a rampart, which has an outer ditch on the north side, where it traverses very steep slopes. On the west side it crosses the little vale, and has been reduced by ploughing to a scarp. On the south side it follows the top of a line of small crags, fading out wherever the slopes become precipitous. There are no traces of an extension of this rampart down the slopes on the east side.
The ramparts where they are not turfed over, are seen to be composed of earth, stones and boulders. (8)
Listed under pre-Roman Iron Age multivallate [forts, settlements and enclosures] with overlying settlement of round stone huts. (9)
Temporarily by-passed owing to bracken cover. A reasonably well preserved fort, generally as described by previous authorities. The partially circumscribing bank and ditch exhibits all the characteristics (as noted by Honeyman) of this type of feature where it occurs with local IA works. In this case, although there is no evidence of an E side, it can be said to form the major part of an
enclosure which contributes nothing to the defensive system. If, as seems likely, it is comtemporary, therefore it can only be viewed as some form of stock or cultivation annex. Evidence of occupation in the main fort is limited to an internal D-shaped enclosure and four possible stone-founded hut sites, but is sufficient to justify Jobey's claim to secondary RB settlement. Re-surveyed at 1:2500. (10)
Field investigation of outer enclosure of Old Rothbury hillfort revealed a hut circle located at north end of terrace behind the fort, immediately at the foot of crags which rise to north and just below external rampart lines. Site survives as an earthwork ring bank, 6m external diameter with entrance to west. Wall foundations are represented by a 0.75m wide heather-covered bank standing 0.2m high. No stone content visible. No external features associated with site. (11)
Larger than usual hillfort with later Romano-British settlement. Twin ramparts on north; only a single one visible on south. Foundations on six hut circles inside. (12)
Old Rothbury, NU 046020. Enclosed settlement of round stone houses. (13)
NU 0465 0200. Old Rothbury multivallate hillfort (and cairnfield). Scheduled RSM No 20887/01. Immediately to the E of the hillfort there are several platforms scooped into the hillside, some may be the result of local quarrying but others are identified as house platforms located immediately outside the E entrance of the hillfort. (14)
Excavations carried out inside the hillfort by D D Dixon in 1921 - presumably at the centre of the hillfort. Uncovered a large pit 6 ft. across, with infilling "made soil and much charcoal in the filling". The single artefact recovered - current (2006) location of which is unknown - was a single piece of pottery then ascribed an Early Iron Age date. (15)
FIELD SURVEY, Hill forts and settlements in Northumberland ; G Jobey
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